Rhodes old town, the legacy of the Knights

Rhodes Old Town is a unique monument of medieval architecture and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The order of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem stayed at the beautiful island of Rhodes and established this unique medieval town.


In 1009 AD the knights of St. John of Jerusalem, known also as John Knights, founded an order to heal and care for the pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. Since it was conquered by the crusaders, the order gained power and military characteristics supported by the Church. The order of St. John Knights wandered in Asia Minor and in Limassol, Cyprus for several years until 1305 when they attacked Rhodes. After a 4 year strong resistance from the Rhodians in 1309 they conquer the island and enter into the most glorious part of their knight history as they take a leading role in the East Mediterranean and are renamed Knights of Rhodes. During their stay at Rhodes, the fortification of the island was upgraded and expanded. Despite the conflict with the Ottoman Empire, sea trade was the main source of income, resulting in vivid markets operating on the island. During the period Rhodes was under the rule of the Knights, the island flourished since the relationship between the locals and the Knights had been characterized from tolerance to close cooperation.


Buildings at the island are distinct examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The Knights modernized the town with respect to the ancient ruins of the town. The majority of the streets and roads of the medieval town are those of the ancient one. They also maintained the division of the town in two zones which are divided by an internal wall. The north part was known as Chastel, Castrum, Chateau, Castellum or Conventus still holds the palace of the Great Magistracy, the catholic cathedrasl and the residence of the catholic bishop, the knights’ residences and the hospital. The south part known as ville, burgus or burgum was the area the people resided, including the market, synagogues, churches as well as public and commercial buildings. The order in Rhodes maintained very well organized records, including documents that had been issued by the administrative authorities, correspondence, legal documents etc., The records are now being held at the Malta National Library, have provided crucial information about everyday life during that period.

Entrance at the knights’ castle in Rhodes is through three majestic gates. The D’Amboise Gate is the most fascinating leading to the palace. It was named after the Great Magistr of the Order of St. John Knights, Emery d” Amboise.

Rhodes Old Town Gate

The sea gate or the Harbour gate has been named as such since it offers access to the sea and the harbour. There are two massive towers on both sides of the gate. On the upper external part of the gate, the coat of arms of the order is visible to date.

Rhodes Old Town Water Gate

The dockyard gate. The massive dimensions of the opening has led archaeologists to believe that there was a shipyard building or repairing ships inside the castle and they were carried in and out of sea through that gate.

Rhodes Old Town Tarsana Gate

The knights’ road looks like an artery, linking the head of the order, the palace, to the church of Holy Mary inside the castle. As the traveler walks through the medieval street, one of the best kept in Europe can clearly see the knights’ emblems, the coat of arms of the order, Christian statues and symbols representing that period.

Rhodes Old Town KNIGHT street

The magic created by the castle’s frontage transforms into a combination of awe, mystery and endless shiver which constantly rises as the visitor discovers even more the inner parts of the castle, linking the history of every part of the monument.

See also: Rhodes   Rhodes tips


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